"Get...started?" He repeated back.
"Yeah," she took his wrist and led him to an area that wasn't so populated by dirt or trash. "My instructor says I'm not supposed to do this, but...” She swung her arms and clapped them together, like she was warming them up. “I'm going to teach you how to fight. At least a little bit."
He flinched, as if insulted. "I know how to fight," he said defensively.
She sighed, making a big gesture of it. "Boys. You think that just making your fists fly is fighting and none of you have no idea what a punch really is."
He folded his arms. "Well, fine. If you don't think I can fight then teach me more of your Ju-Jitsu."
She growled. "For the last time, it's Ju—" She paused, words caught in her throat.
"That's the second time you said that," he cocked his head.
"I'm just used to everyone calling it Judo," She shrugged.
"Well they're wrong," he smiled, "What you taught me the other day was pretty neat."
She smiled back bashfully. "We can practice it again if you want."
"Actually... I wanted to ask if you knew how to get out of another hold?"
Her ears perked. "Which one?"
"It's another one Ritzer likes to do, where he goes up under your armpits and hooks the back of your neck," he tried to demonstrate in the air.
She bit her lip. "I think I know what you're talking about... But, no. I don't really know how to get out of that one off the top of my head."
"Oh," he dropped his hands, "Well, that's okay, I—”
"Do it to me." Her words were met with a visible balk. She smiled, and turned around, holding her arms out at her sides, "Go on, I wanna figure out how to get out."
Cautiously he approached her—approached the edge of his comfort circle. Her arms wiggled impatiently at his hesitance, until finally he, very timidly, looped under them and twined his fingers together at the base of her neck. "It's like this, sorta..."
"Sorta is right," she huffed, "are you even trying? C'mon, stand up straight, lift my feet off the ground if you can."
"Am I really supposta?"
"It's what Ritzer would do."
He had to agree. He straightened, then gently lifted up, although his arms were still detached from all the pull-ups.
Her heels rose up and she stood on her tiptoes. She gave a voice of approval, and then fell silent for a moment or two.
He waited, listening to the birds chirp in the trees, and the bees whizz-bizz by. It felt like a minute or two passed until he finally worked up the nerve to speak. "What're you doing?"
"Thinking." She replied. "Trying to figure out the best way. I could kick your knee in," she moved her leg and tapped the back of his calf, "but then we'd both fall—and you could fall forward and I'd be in trouble. I can't really do much with my arms," she patted around his back. "Well, I could give a wedgie," she teased with a giggle, pulling at his shorts.
"Hey, stop," he grumbled.
"Oh! I think I get it now," she laughed. "You're going to like this; going down!"
Before he could question, her arms rose up straight above her head, and she slipped away from his grasp like a wet fish. But it didn't stop there; he felt her hand latch around the back of his knee, and she rose up, pulling his leg and pushing on his torso. He fell back, landing on the ground with exhalation. In his daze, she straddled his stomach, pushed his arms out, and then slid her knees right up to his pits. After the speckles of light left his eyes, her hand was at his throat, a triumphant smile beaming down at him, framed by a few locks of white hair that fell past her shoulders.
"Say it," she said, pushing on his throat just a little.
He winced at the pressure, and licked his lips when she let up. "U—Uncle?".
Her mouth closed and her eyes slacked, "I would have settled for 'thank you,'" she said as she released his neck. Hand extended as she dismounted him, she lifted him to his feet. But it put her in the perfect position, and she clutched his wrist. "This," she said, "Is a cross-hand grab. What's first rule?"
He blinked into the thought, and then stated: "Relax."
And so she began teaching him some of the basics. How to get out of simple holds, how to handle the instinct to counter brute force with brute force. She helped him learn to use his feet; to step away from aggression like the dragon, or step into it like the tiger.
Time escaped them as he enjoyed learning the different things she knew. All throughout her lecture though, she made him promise he wouldn't really practice it on his own. "I don't want you hurting yourself or pulling a muscle," she said, "otherwise I'll feel really bad."
"I won't," he said. "But, you kinda haven't really taught me how to fight," he pointed out.
"Maybe not the way you imagined it," she replied. "But, if you really want to learn something kind of aggressive there is the Leaf-Hand."
"Leaf-Hand?" He asked, rolling his wrist. It had never felt so loose, but at the same time it felt sort of good.
"Yup," she said, lifting her right hand, "It's a distraction-move, meant to keep the opponent under control." She moved her hand cross-ways down toward his stomach slowly, going through the motion. "You can go this way, or back," she went the other way, back toward her like she was slapping his side, "depending on what you want to do."
"Does it hurt?" He asked.
"Heck yeah it does!" She replied with enthusiasm, her hand poised. "You ready?"
"S'matter? Ya scay-yerd?"
He glared. "No way," he stood with his belly out, "Whaddo I do?"
"Just lift your right arm up."
He did so, and waited. She stood poised for a long moment. He swallowed, licking his lips. What's she waiting for? His eyes started to wander.
A crack like a whip resounded in the air. He stumbled back, clutching his stomach, mouth ajar. A full second passed, and then he grunted a vulgarity as he doubled over. Once able to, he stood upright, lifting his shirt. The shape of her hand was tattooed on the skin beneath his fur.
She suddenly felt very badly. She stepped over to him, placing a hand over her mark. She rubbed it gently. "Sorry," she said, "I guess I don't know my own strength."
"Well," he said through gritted teeth, "you did warn me it would hurt, so can't really be mad."
"Good news is..." She stepped back and lifted her arms in the air. "You get to do it to me."
"No way," he rejected, putting his hands up, "no way."
"Yes way, it's only fair."
"I'm not gonna hurt you like that," he said defiantly.
"Don't pull that 'no-hitting-girls' stuff," she retorted, stepping forward and clutching his hand. "Just take your hand, remember to keep it relaxed, a—”
"No, Emeral!" He shouted, fiercely pushing her away.
She stumbled, and fell onto her rear. She stared back up at him from the ground, a mix of emotions on his face.
His pupils narrowed to slits and he walked toward the backpacks, retrieving hers.
She got to her feet, and he handed it to her without looking in her direction.
"I think it's time we went home." He said dryly.
She looked down as he retrieved his pack. She suddenly felt a little cold, despite the warm and humid afternoon. "Okay," she agreed quietly, and followed his lead.
Every now and then, just like a good leader, he would look back and make sure she was still behind him.
Every time, she wanted to be invisible, to disappear or just crawl under one of the bug-ridden rocks. It was obvious she'd pulled him out of his circle; yanked him over the line.
She wanted to ask exactly what it was that was a step too far. Maybe hurting him like that wasn't such a good idea, despite his insistence that she gave him fair warning and he was willing. She had embarrassed him, emasculated him by making him react to pain.
At the edge of the park, they stopped and looked at each other for a moment. The sounds of basketballs dribbling and bicycle horns honking, and people shouting, all about. But around them, just a little bubble of quiet.
To her it felt like she was never going to see him again. She knew, without a doubt, she'd done something that really bothered him. Right down to the core.
She flinched; his hand was on her arm. "You want me to walk you back to the library?" He asked comfortingly.
She shook her head.
His hand slipped away, and he let out what sounded like a sigh of regret. "I'll... seeya Monday then."
She nodded, and watched as he crossed the street toward his house.